Black Sabbath is the debut eponymous studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Released on 13 February 1970 in the United Kingdom, and later on 1 June 1970 in the United States, the album reached number eight on the UK Albums Chart and has been recognised as one of the main albums to be credited with the development of the heavy metal genre.
In August 1969 the band, who were then known as Earth, decided to change their name to Black Sabbath. This was because there was another band also known as Earth; the name is also an homage to the 1963 classic Mario Bava terror film starring Boris Karloff. Around the same time they recorded and distributed a demo version of their eponymous song. In December 1969 they recorded and released their debut single, "Evil Woman". In January 1970, the band recorded and mixed the remaining seven songs that would appear on their debut album. According to guitarist Tony Iommi, "We just went in the studio and did it in a day, we played our live set and that was it. We actually thought a whole day was quite a long time, then off we went the next day to play for £20 in Switzerland."
Iommi recalls recording live: "We thought 'We have two days to do it and one of the days is mixing.' So we played live. Ozzy was singing at the same time, we just put him in a separate booth and off we went. We never had a second run of most of the stuff."
Musically and lyrically the album was considered quite "dark" for the time. The first song on the album is based almost entirely on a tritone interval played at slow tempo on the electric guitar. The song's lyrics concern a "figure in black" which bass player Geezer Butler claims to have seen after waking up from a nightmare.
Similarly, the lyrics of the song "N.I.B." are written from the point of view of Lucifer. Contrary to popular belief, the name of that song is not an initialism for "Nativity In Black". Tony Iommi said in several interviews that it is merely a reference to drummer Bill Ward's pointed goatee at the time, which was shaped as a pen-nib.
Lyrics of two other songs on the album were written about supernatural-themed stories. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is a reference to the H. P. Lovecraft short story Beyond the Wall of Sleep, while "The Wizard" was inspired by the character of Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. The latter includes harmonica performed by vocalist Ozzy Osbourne.
Both the songs "Warning" and "Evil Woman" are covers of blues songs, with lyrics regarding relationships. The first was written and performed by Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation, and the second was written and performed by the band Crow.
The album cover features a depiction of Mapledurham Watermill, situated on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England. Standing in front of the watermill is a figure dressed in black. The silhouette of a raven is visible among the trees on the back cover. On the original release, the inner gate-fold sleeve featured an inverted cross with a poem written inside of it. Vertigo, the band's record label, was allegedly responsible for adding the cross. Allegedly, the band was upset when they discovered this, as it fueled allegations that they were Satanists or Occultists. Although, in Osbourne's recent biography, "I Am Ozzy", he says that to the best of his knowledge that nobody was upset with the inclusion. The album was not packaged with a gate-fold cover in the U.S.
Released on Friday the 13th February 1970 by Vertigo Records, Black Sabbath reached number eight on the UK Album Chart. Following its US release in June 1970 by Warner Bros. Records, the album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, where it remained for over a year, selling a million copies.
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